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Chapter: Introduction to Human Nutrition: A Global Perspective on Food and Nutrition

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Relationship between nutrition science and practice

The journey through the scientific domain of nutri-tion will, at a specialized stage, fork into different roads.

Relationship between nutrition science and practice

The journey through the scientific domain of nutrition will, at a specialized stage, fork into different roads. These roads will lead to the different scopes or branches of nutrition science that are covered in the second, third, and fourth texts of this series. These different branches of nutrition science could lead to the training of nutrition specialists for specific prac-tice areas.

The main aim of nutrition professionals is to apply nutrition principles to promote health and well-being, to prevent disease, and/or to restore health (treat disease) in individuals, families, communities and the population. To help individuals or groups of people to eat a balanced diet, in which food supply meets nutrient needs, involves application of nutri-tion principles from a very broad field to almost every facet of human life. It is therefore not surprising that these different branches or specialties of nutrition have evolved and are developing. They include clini-cal nutrition, community nutrition, public health, and public nutrition. It can be expected that there will be overlap in the practice areas of these specialties.

 

The clinical nutritionist will counsel individuals from a biomedical–disease–behavioral paradigm to promote health, prevent disease, or treat disease. The clinical nutritionist will mostly work within the health service (facility-based settings such as hospi-tals, clinics, private practice).

The community nutritionist, with additional skills from the psychosocial behavioral sciences, should be aware of the dynamics within particular communities responsible for nutritional problems. These would include household food security, socioeconomic background, education levels, childcare practices, sanitation, water, energy sources, healthcare services, and other quality-of-life indicators. The community nutritionist will design, implement, and monitor appropriate, com-munity-participatory programs to address these problems.


      The public health or public nutritionist covers the health and care practice areas but will also be con-cerned with food security (agricultural) and envi-ronmental issues on a public level. The public health or public nutritionist will, for example, be responsible for nutrition surveillance, and the design, implementation, and monitoring of dietary guidelines that address relevant public health prob-lems. A background knowledge in economics, agriculture, political science, and policy design is essential for the formulation and application of nutrition policy in a country.

Many developing countries will not have the capac-ity or the financial resources to train and employ professionals for different specialties. However, future specialized training and employment of different pro-fessionals could result in a capacity to address nutri-tional problems more effectively.


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